Rudd reveals Ord expansion plan

AGENCIESThe West Australian

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to reveal plans today to expand the Ord River scheme.

In Darwin a short time ago, Mr Rudd said he would set up a special economic zone in northern Australia if re-elected.

Mr Rudd is expected to reveal further plans in Kununurra this afternoon.

This morning he said companies based in the Northern Territory would have a lower corporate tax rate, simplified investment rules and streamlined regulation.

“My personal objective for the Territory is it would be great to have a company tax rate here one-third lower than that of rest of the country,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Darwin.

The new tax rate would kick in by 2018.

Mr Rudd said the constitution allowed for the NT to have a different tax regime to other states and territories.

He said the plan would also expand the Ord River Irrigation Scheme to open up 14,000 hectares of land in the Northern Territory for agriculture.

The major project would drive $150 million worth of agricultural production in the region.

“This would unleash an enormous amount of agricultural land for the future and, economists tell us, $150 million worth of agricultural production,” Mr Rudd said.

“This is about investing in a huge new project for Australia, the future of agribusiness.”

Labor would work in partnership with the Northern Territory government, which needed $10 million to deal with native title negotiations in order to secure the land.

Farmers on the irrigation scheme and East Kimberley residents are hopeful the Rudd announcement will seal the development of Ord Stage Three, which would boost the scheme to 100,000ha.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott earlier pledged a 20-year plan for northern Australia.

The Ord scheme sits in the Federal electorate of Durack and will be contested by resources lawyer Melissa Price (Liberal), Fitzroy Crossing resident Daron Keogh (Labor), Cunderdin farmer Ian James (Greens) and Shane Van Styn (Nationals WA). Former footballer Des Headland will run for the Palmer United Party. Durack is held by the Liberals by a 13.7 per cent margin.

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